Beginner’s Guide to Motorcycling: Section Eight

2023 MV Agusta 921S

Section Eight: Motorcycle Oils

The majority of us riders want to make our bike(s) last, and run like new forever, but it takes maintenance to do just that. Bike engines work harder than car engines and thus require more of our attention. Here are some oil tips I found to be beneficial I’d like to pass along.

Motorcycle Oils. More than Just Necessary.

You owe it to yourself and your bike to make it as safe and reliable to ride as you can. To some, that means tearing apart an engine, carburetor and more; to others that is making sure you do the basics. Since everyone is different and may not be as comfortable working on their bikes as others, this section will cover the MINIMUM on what you should do for you and your bike, they also happen to be the easiest things to do as well.


2022 Moto Guzzi V7 850

Oil & Filter Changes:

If you only do one thing yourself on your motorcycle and get a shop to do everything else, this should be the one. Oil is the life blood of any vehicle (motorcycle, car, truck etc), and is critical to the life of your motorcycle’s life. Without oil, no matter how old or new your bike is, the engine will seize and die. Motorcycles are very hard on engine oil versus the typical car, they run at higher Revolutions Per Minute, meaning the parts move hundreds of times faster than in a car, at hotter temperatures and in most oil and air is the only thing that cools the engine down from melting down. So again, do yourself a favor and change your oil regularly.

What Oil does: Not only does Oil cool down an engine, it makes sure that metal parts do not come into contact with each other (that’s bad). Since metal on metal contact can cause lots of expensive damage in an engine (scrapes, broken parts, fillings, chips) and that debris is what very quickly destroys things inside the engine. Oil is what not only keeps those metal parts from smashing into each other (lubrication) but also acts as a transport carrier to quickly move minor debris (fillings, dust, dirt, carbon) away and into the filter to be deposited safely. So that is where the Oil Filter comes into play, without an oil filter, all that debris being carried around in the oil would have no safe place to be deposited and would do more damage as it travels around and around the engine.

Changing your oil and filter: Yes it can be messy (depending on the bike) and isn’t very fun to tell you the truth, but even beginners can change it in 45 minutes. Once you get used to changing your bikes oil, you will be able to cut that time in half (if not even less than that), also it isn’t hard to do yourself. I won’t be able to tell you how to change your bikes oil, but I can tell you what to look for on almost (because I can’t say all) bikes. There is generally only 3 bolts to unscrew to change both the oil and the oil filter (one bolt each, plus the one to pour the oil in (oil plug)). Make sure to drain the oil first (about a 5 minute process) buy unscrewing the oil bolt and letting it drain in an oil pan below the bike then do the next step by replacing the oil filter. Some tips are: warm the bike up to thin down the oil, to put it on its center stand, unscrew the oil plug to relieve pressure and slowly rock it side to side. To change the filter, you wait until there is not any oil dripping out of the oil drain hole, then unscrew either the filter itself or the bolt that holds on the oil filter pan (the oil filter will be inside the pan). Simply remove the old used oil filter, pop in a new one, bolt everything back up and that’s that! Easy as 1-2-3!

Double check everything: Make 100% sure that you bolted everything up nice and tight so oil won’t come pouring out (or dipping out) of the bottom of your bike once you start pouring it in. Check either the side of your bike (it might be listed how much to use) or your manual for how much to pour in. Incase of any doubt, call a motorcycle dealership that sells your brand of bike and ask them. When you do both a oil and oil filter change you will require more oil then just doing an oil change. That is because the oil filter holds oil inside of it and putting a new filter on means you are going to need more oil for the bike to fill that up again. OK, you’ve checked all the bolts and they look tight, you know how much oil to put in, so go ahead and pour it in the hole that you took the oil plug out of. If your manual said to use 2.5 liters of oil, use that much exactly and no more. If you have a oil plug dip stick, clean it off, screw it back on, unscrew it out again and check the oil level markings on it to see if you have a “full” amount of oil in there. If you have an oil window, look in it (you might need a flashlight) and compare the level of oil with those marking on your engine case beside the oil window. If everything looks good then screw the oil plug back on tightly if you haven’t already, turn the bike on and run it for 1-2 minutes.

2023 BRABUS 1300R Edition 23

Why do you run the bike and not let it sit? Because you are not done just yet, you have to make sure once the oil is distributed evenly around the engine that you don’t have to add more oil to “top it up”. Check the oil plug dipstick or the oil level window and see where the oil is at, you need to wait a couple of minutes since the oil needs to slowly drain back down again. If the level is not as high as it was before, add a little bit more and again, run the engine. Check again, how it is now? You may need to do this process once or twice, but usually no more. Now, you are 100% assured you have the correct amount of oil in the engine and your bike will love you for it.

How often should you change your oil? Some change their oil too often, others forget to change it enough. Changing it too often is wasteful and since oil is not a renewable resource, we have to be careful how we use it and not to waste it. Changing it not at all is great for the environment, but disastrous on your bike’s life. So we need to change it as often as your bike needs it plus a little sooner “just to make sure”. Check your owners manual and see what the manufacturer recommends, let’s say it is every 3,000km, then I would recommend changing it every 2,000km (or every 6 months) to make my bike’s engine last longer. If you don’t know when to change your oil, every 2,000km (or every 6 months) is more than enough to be on the safe side. I suggest 6 months as well because oil actually does get oil and it looses it’s lubricating properties just sitting around at the bottom of your engine, so just because you don’t ride a lot doesn’t mean you get off on doing maintenance!

What oil to use? This is a grey area for motorcyclists, and you should always use what your motorcycle manual (or what is printed on the oil drain plug) tell you to. If you have an older motorcycle (20 years old for example), you will find it does not say to “Only Use Motorcycle Oil”, but rather tells you want type (10w40, 20w50, etc). “Motorcycle Oil” is not a new invention but a new way of selling the same 100,000 year-old product. I’m pretty sure 100,000 years ago they didn’t have motorcycles, or dinosaurs that when they died would produce motorcycle oil. 20 years ago motorcycle oil didn’t exist, but motorcycles were already 70+ years old at that time. I’m also pretty sure they changed their oil more than once every 70 years as well. So, now that you have the background on “motorcycle oil”, you can read on:

Motorcycle Oil versus Automobile Oil: This is the big debate and I won’t even try to debate it for you, you will have to decide for yourself after learning the facts and believing what ever you want to believe (like The Matrix, take the blue pill…take the red pill…). Dino oil (organic “normal” oil) is Dino oil, but is the last 10 years they (oil companies) have figured to split it up into special oils for different vehicles. Your country will have special (very tight) rules on what goes into oil and what doesn’t. Motorcycle oil may have all the hype of “superior oil just for motorcycles” but many argue it is exactly (99.9%) the same as car oil. I’ve included links to different points of view in the bottom of this section for you to read if you so choose. Personally, I think it is the same oil, but I’m too chicken to try auto oil in my bike. My mechanic uses Prestone Auto oil in ALL the bikes that he does an oil change on in his shop, and none have suffered, many bikers like using Castrol GTX auto oil and Mobile One auto oil as well with great results. I can by Canadian Tire Motormaster brand Motorcycle Oil (says so on the package) for less ($1.89) than I can good auto oil, so why not. I talked to Shell (they make it for Canadian Tire and re-label it as Motomaster) and they said it is Formula One Oil. The funny thing about that is Shell doesn’t make “Motorcycle Oil”… things that make you go humm…

2023 Suzuki V-Strom 650


Oil Products

Motorcycle Oil Versus Automotive Oil (site: 2 excellent)

Motomaster 4 Stroke Motorcycle Oil – (from Shell Canada) Shell brand oil. Formulated to meet JASO T903 MA quality (a motorcycle spec). As well, since they are formulated for gasoline engines, they also meet API SJ (typically known as a ‘car’ spec).

All engine oils use an organic Zinc compound as an extreme pressure/anti wear additive. Spectro adds more to their Motorcycle oil than to the car oil because Zinc is a poison to catalytic converters. You will also see that some “car” oil contains more than their motorcycle oil. The difference in Zinc content between .11% and .16% is insignificant to the converter. The little data I saw on the oils packaged by the motorcycle manufacturers indicated
that they were no better than the top automotive oils. While most were good, they didn’t offer anything the cheaper oils do. (They are in reality just repackaged and in some cases slightly reformulated top grade auto oils).

Oil Filters

Fram filters is what I always have used simply because I didn’t know there were others out there and could buy them at Canadian Tire for $10 each. Blame inexperience for buying low quality oil filters at higher prices than top quality ones. It isn’t Canadian Tires fault for selling them at this price is’t mine for not doing enough research into them.

By all means, FRAM motorcycle oil filters never caused me any grief. But they were quite beatup after frequent 1,000-2,000km oil changes using Motormaster 10w40 4-Stroke motorcycle oil.

Best filters to buy: Purolator, WIX, Suzuki OEM
Worst filters to buy: FRAM

Air Filter

K&N Car Air filters
K&N Motorcycle Air filters

Spark Plugs

NGK Spark Plugs

Chain & sprockets

DID Chains


Yuasa Batteries

Yuasa Battery Literature (good)


2023 MV Agusta 921S


EBC Brakes

SBS Brakes


Paint and Surface Protection



Turtle Wax

3M Scotch-Brite

Review of Some Motorcycle Cleaners, Waxes and Polishes



The more care and maintenance you give a bike the longer it will last, up to a point. You can kill your bike with over kindness and changing your oil every 500km when the oil isn’t even worn out won’t make your bike last any longer either.



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